United States Settles Medical Malpractice Claim with Vietnam Veteran for $12 Million

Chicago - December 2, 2013

This morning a Settlement Agreement in the amount of $12 million was finalized between the Estate of John I. Johnson, a disabled combat Vietnam Veteran and the United States, as representative of Hines V. A. Hospital.

John Johnson was a Vietnam Combat Veteran who served in the United States Army from 1970 – 1971. Like many of his fellow Vietnam Veterans, Mr. Johnson, upon deployment from his military service, experienced undiagnosed emotional problems which led to extensive periods of unemployment and homelessness throughout his lifetime. In recent years, John began to turn his life around to the point that he had an apartment, was seeking regular medical care at Hines V. A. Hospital and even had started a relationship with a female companion that he provided care and comfort to during her diagnoses of cancer and through his daily visits at the hospital up until the time of her death. John’s medical care at Hines V. A. Hospital included treatment for a serious heart condition that he had developed through his years of an unstable life style following his return from Vietnam. In addition to his cardiac condition, John developed multiple dental problems including periodontal disease that the dentist at Hines V. A. Hospital recommended treatment by removal of his teeth to be replaced with dentures.

On September 19, 2007, the Hines V. A. Hospital oral surgeon, Dr. Elizabeth Walsh, scheduled John to undergo an oral surgery for the removal of fourteen (14) teeth at once while under a general anesthetic. Prior to the surgical procedure, John was to undergo a pre-operative evaluation by cardiology to determine if John’s cardiac condition would allow the use of a general anesthetic. Hines V. A. Hospital failed to perform an adequate and proper pre-operative evaluation for purposes of obtaining cardiac clearance allowing the oral surgery with a general anesthetic to proceed. Additionally, Hines V. A. Hospital, through its various physicians in cardiology, anesthesiology and its oral surgeon, deviated from the standard of care by proceeding with a general anesthesia knowing full well that John had a severe non-ischemic cardiomyopathy with a low ejection fraction of 10 to 20 percent. Also, the healthcare providers at Hines V. A. Hospital deviated from the standard of care by not placing an arterial line for continued and precise monitoring of blood pressure that would allow the oral surgeon and anesthesiologist to monitor John’s vital signs up to the second, as opposed to the use of a blood pressure cuff that determined the vital signs in five (5) minute increments. The oral surgeon, Dr. Elizabeth Walsh, the anesthesiologist, Dr. Sherine Hanna, and the cardiology department that performed the pre-operative evaluation all ignored previous recommendations for the placement prior to the surgical procedure taking place of an automatic internal defibrillator that would have monitored any disruptive heart rhythms during a surgical procedure and provide the necessary defibrillation automatically. In addition to ignoring the automatic internal defibrillator placement recommendation, the anesthesiologist failed to prepare for the likelihood of a cardiac arrest during the operative procedure under general anesthesia. The standard of care for such a patient as John Johnson undergoing a general anesthetic with the cardiac condition that he presented with, calls for the placement of a defibrillator in the operating room throughout the procedure. No such defibrillator was placed in the operating room and the delay in getting the defibrillator contributed to the tragic outcome of the case.

Without the appropriate cardiac clearance or the appropriate protective measures being performed, John experienced a cardiac event that went undetected by the use of the blood pressure cuff that produced vital signs every four to five minutes as opposed to the placement of an atrial line that would have provided vital signs up to the second. John’s resulting respiratory arrest and hypoxic event was such that it took well over six (6) minutes for the medical providers at Hines V. A. Hospital to properly respond with the use of a defibrillator to restore John’s cardiac rhythm. As a result of the over six (6) minute delay in proper cardiac treatment, John sustained severe brain damage leaving him in an impaired state where he requires twenty four hour nursing care.

The $12 million settlement agreement will establish two separate trusts for the benefit of John Johnson. The first trust will be for the benefit of John Johnson, the disabled person and will be immediately funded with a $5 million payment that will provide for housing and other non-medical care expenses. The second trust will be a medical care trust that will receive a $1 million cash payment to fund the trust for the immediate care of John and this medical care trust will be additionally funded through $6 million invested in several annuities. The total settlement will provide John Johnson with medical care in excess of $10 million, which brings the total settlement value to $16,893,290.00.

For the last six years, John Johnson has bounced around from several nursing homes throughout the Chicago area and has had many emergency room visits and hospitalizations at various hospitals as a result of infections that are common place in any extended healthcare facility due to the various medical conditions of other inhabitants of that facility. This settlement will allow John Johnson to obtain a house that will be specifically altered to allow for his around the clock care, wheelchair access and most importantly remove him from nursing home care where he was exposed to life threatening infective processes. John will not only be receiving twenty four hour nursing care and physician care in a controlled home environment, but he will also be returned to the care and love of his family members, including his sister, Faye Turner, his mother, Geraldine Johnson, his brother, Steven Johnson, and his sister, Pare Lee Brown.

This Thanksgiving/Christmas season the Johnson family is thankful for the United States Government recognizing its responsibility in providing for the necessary medical care and treatment that John presently requires and will require for the rest of his life. Moreover, the Johnson family is thankful that this Vietnam Veteran, this brother, this son, is finally coming home to receive the love and care that only a family can provide.

Attorney John F. Winters, Jr. is a founding member of the law firm of Winters Salzetta O’Brien & Richardson, LLC. He has represented numerous clients in receiving settlements and verdicts for their personal injury and wrongful death cases involving vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, and police misconduct.
For further information about this case, contact Winters at his office at 312-236-6324 or on his cellphone at 312-953-3663.

About Winters Salzetta O’Brien & Richardson, LLC:

Based in Chicago, Winters Salzetta O’Brien & Richardson, LLC, is among the premier personal injury law firms in Illinois. Peers have recognized the firm’s attorneys for their outstanding representation in the areas of motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, workplace injuries, civil rights violations, premises liability and safety, nursing home law, and wrongful death cases. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 312-236-6324 or visit

American Association of Justice American Board of Trial Advocates Illinois State Bar Association Illinois Trial Lawyers Association
Back to Top